Students build two gardens at Macksville Adventist School

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The Welcome Garden group after purchasing their plants with local Nursery Owners, Lyndl and Jeff. (Pelican's Landing in Nambucca Heads)

Macksville Adventist School (MAS) has embraced a new, student-directed learning style called Project Based Learning (PBL), which encourages students to explore the answers to real-life problems. As a result, the school has built two brand-new gardens.

Specially trained staff at MAS ran their first PBL for a week at the end of term one. Teachers presented this problem to the students: “As landscape architects, how can we create beautiful spaces for prayer and play at MAS?”

The students rose to the occasion, deciding to create two new areas on the campus—a “Welcome Garden” and a “Prayer Garden”.

Horticultural and banking experts were invited to the school to teach the students the skills necessary to complete their projects. For science class, students tested soil and researched plant types for science. For mathematics, they learned how to budget their project finances and physically measure the garden spaces. For art class, students designed outdoor artworks and learned new computer software to design the gardens digitally.

“I liked doing the hands-on activities with the kids, learning about things that most of them hadn’t done before and using their imagination to create something together on a large scale,” said Mrs Samara, a teacher’s aide.

Mrs Kerry Howard and Anique digging in the Prayer Garden.

Up-cycling was a big theme for the week, with old school bricks becoming garden and path edging, and plastic bottles turning into garden flowers and tree-hanging art. Rocks were decorated and turned into creatures and features to place among the plants. Bags of cement, mixed with some hard work, were transformed into lovingly created pavers with unique designs.

“I liked making different kinds of garden art. I learnt that some paints don’t last being outside and I learnt how to mix cement,” said Taleigh (Year 4 student).

Nyah and Lacey carrying water to their new garden.

The MAS parent community was an integral part of the week. Parents volunteered time, energy, talents and plants. Parents helped with art, digging, weeding, planting and even providing food. The project would not have been possible without their support.

“The kids got to be outside and learn something they normally wouldn’t,” said Emma (MAS parent). “While the kids saw it as a lot of fun, they also learnt so much and didn’t know it!”

A highlight of the week was the excursion to the Pelicans Landing Garden Nursery in Nambucca Heads, where students used money from their budgets to purchase the plants they had researched.

“I really liked the budgeting because we learnt how to spend money on the right things and then how to buy things when we went to the nursery,” said Lacey (Year 2 student).

Prayer Garden students setting up their Natural Teepee.

To celebrate the completion of their project, parents, friends and community members were invited to an “Opening Ceremony” at the end of the week.

“The final product, in the form of two brand new gardens, is remarkable. Our PBL week was a complete success. Perhaps the next problem to present to students will be how to get rid of the weeds!” said MAS principal, Mrs Kerry Howard.

PBL is becoming increasingly popular among Adventist schools in the North NSW Conference, helping to improve students learning outcomes, engagement in class, and behavior.